Newsletter Oct 2021

When I start browsing plant books – or, these days, websites – I am always fascinated and delighted to see who is related to whom in the plant world. Families can be made up of dozens of genera with dozens of species, some of which you would never have thought of as being connected until your attention is drawn to the scientifically defining feature. In the case of the mallow family (Malvaceae), that feature is the distinctive column of stamens surrounding the pistil, creating almost a bottle brush effect.

At least two members of this vast family were familiar residents in the gardens of our grannies. The towering hollyhocks with their lovely pastel-coloured flowers have long since gone out of fashion, but the big bold flowers of Hibiscus sinensis are still seen, these days often tamed into a standard. Of course, there are now also an enormous range of beautiful hibiscus hybrids to choose from, one more showy than the other. We have the more sedate but no less special indigenous Hibiscus callyphyllus, Hibiscus pendunculatus, and Hibiscus praeteritus in the nursery - all very different but still members of the same family.

My friend Jennifer waxes lyrical about a somewhat lesser known mallow, our indigenous Pavonia praemorsa. Her “mother” plant, bought from Petal Faire some years ago, now has relatives all over her garden thanks to its generous self-seeding and undemanding nature. The apricot-orange buds turn into small lemon-yellow flowers which fade back to apricot daily, giving the shrub an almost variegated look all through its long flowering season. Left to its own devices, it can keep going to up to two metres and become rather shapeless, but it lends itself beautifully to training and hedging. The first time I saw Pavonia praemorsa was at a Malanseuns Trade Day where the shrubs had been trained into the most beautiful standards. For those of you who still like to have pom poms in the garden, this is definitely the one for you. The round somewhat crinkled leaves are also rather special.


As I sit writing this letter, there is soft rain falling in the background. What a blessing after a few hellishly hot days!

The jacarandas are spectacular this year, the Cape chestnut is in bloom, and the garden is full of colour. Hydrangea Fireworks, brought from England more than a few years ago, is putting on a gorgeous display. So are our new tall form alstroemerias, and I can finally determine exactly how tall they get!

Hydrangea Fireworks

Alstroemeria Citron

Alstroemeria Red

White Dianthus

Waist high Campanula!

The delicate Sphaeralcea

We have just started with our first mini-prune to ensure a good summer display. The salvias in particular have been bursting at the seams, and the winter-flowering ones have been pruned back so that the summer-flowering ones can shine. 


Click here to view all the plants in this newsletter on the website.

·        Indigenous plants

 A waterwise fast growing evergreen vine with soft wood stems and greyish-green diamond-shaped leaves, the Cape sweetpea (Dipogon lignosus) has dense racemes of scented magenta flowers from spring to summer. It can grow up to 5m high and likes sun to semi-shade.

Scabiosa africana Blue is an approximately 60cm high clump-forming perennial with rosettes of deeply lobed leaves, and blue pom pom flowers which attract butterflies from spring to summer. It is evergreen and very hardy, and wants full sun.

The rare Thunbergia atriplicifolia is another clump-forming indigenous perennial, but this one is deciduous and prefers semi-shade. An attractive plant with furry stalkless oval leaves, its large pale yellow flowers attract insects and butterflies from spring to autumn. It is indigenous to the grassland areas from the Eastern Cape to Limpopo.  

We have the star of our story this month, Pavonia praemosa, in 5 ltr bags. This fast growing evergreen upright shrub likes full sun and dry sandy soil, and the pale yellow flowers attract birds, bees and butterflies all season.

We (finally) also have an interesting selection of Streptocarpus hybrids for sale in the nursery. 

·        Exotic plants

The pyramids of white flowers of Buddleja White profusion attract butterflies from summer to autumn. This is a fast growing, very hardy evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves and arching shoots that reach an average height of 2m. It likes full sun.

All the Deutzia scabra plants are in flower and looking gorgeous. Like the Buddleja, this is an approximately 2m high upright shrub with arching branches and lance-shaped leaves. The pendant-shaped double white flowers have a pink tinge. Deciduous and very hardy, it likes sun to semi-shade. Prune after flowering.

Campanula latifolia Pale blue is a very hardy clump-forming upright perennial with bright green rounded leaves and spikes of pale blue bell-shaped flowers in summer. It is deciduous, and the unbranched stems should be cut back after flowering. Plant in semi-shade.

Hydrangea macrophylla is a rare rounded shrub with large bright green leaves and clusters of ivory-white flowers from summer to autumn. Also deciduous and very hardy, it grows about 1.5m tall and is happiest in semi-shade.


It’s Open Garden season in Elgin, Constantia, Stellenbosch, and KZN! These are not to be missed, so check the internet for dates and maps.

On a more personal note, with South Africa off the UK’s red list, I am off to spend almost a week in Kruger Park with English family. The highlight of our year!  Beautiful trees in bloom, gorgeous veld, good company - what more can you want. 


Happy gardening!



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